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Dr. Kellie Leitch: ' I believe that the future of health care can be improved by clinicians having a better understanding of business operations.'J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Kellie Leitch is currently the Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey and Parliamentary Secretary to two Ministers. She is also a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and an associate professor of surgery. Dr. Leitch earned her Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Toronto in 1994, an MBA from Dalhousie University in 1998, and she completed the Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program in 2001. In 2005, Dr. Leitch was selected as one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and in 2010, she received the Order of Ontario.

What made you decide to complete your MBA whilst in the midst of your medical residency?

As an orthopedic surgery resident you are encouraged to do one or two years of research during your residency. I believe that the future of health care can be improved by clinicians having a better understanding of business operations.

When I approached the Dean and Chairman of Surgery about studying for an MBA rather than doing a traditional route of a PhD, it was a surprisingly easy conversation. The only requirement was that I had to keep up my medical skills by attending orthopedic rounds while studying business. By completing my MBA, I was not only able to improve my medical career but also able to help teach future doctors on how to improve the system.

How long did it take for you to realize the value of your MBA? Do you feel that having an MBA offered you opportunities that would not have been available otherwise?

The return was immediate. As one of the only surgeons in the country with an MBA, I was given unique roles that were based on my education and ability to think differently than a traditionally trained physician.

I was also lucky enough to be introduced to a Dean of Medicine who believed in giving young people opportunities. Because of this and because of my education, I was given the task of developing the first pediatric surgery division at the University Western Ontario. I was also cross-appointed to the Richard Ivey School of Business and given the opportunity to create the Ivey International Centre for Health Innovation, an institution focusing on bringing physicians and entrepreneurs together. None of these opportunities would have presented themselves without my MBA.

Why did you choose Dalhousie for your MBA? Did you apply to any other schools?

I believe it is very important that as a Canadian I experience and like different parts of the country. Atlantic Canadians often hold different attitudes and studying there gave me exposure to new points of view. This enabled me to better understand other Canadians and make sounder decisions in leadership roles. I didn't apply to schools outside of Atlantic Canada, so the only other university I applied to was Saint Mary's.

Do you think that current MBA programs have changed over the years? Do you feel the "brand" of an MBA has changed over the years?

Today MBA programs seem more specialized. Although I feel that there is value in certain specialties, a good general operational management education is essential. Students today are slightly younger but generally are very similar high achievers who want to further themselves.

The MBA brand itself has changed. Where I see the biggest difference is in the "tiering" or ranking of Canadian MBA schools, similar to the U.S. Often when discussing future plans with young people, the future doctors are not concerned with what school they get into, just that they get in, whereas the business students seem to live or die by the schools where their acceptance letters are from. This probably has to do with an increased focus on business school rankings and the job opportunities following graduation.

Do you feel that having an MBA is a relevant qualification for a politician? If so, how have you put your business education toward this country's governance?

An MBA is certainly not a necessary "qualification" but I have found it to be an asset, especially the operations and strategy skills. The MBA gave me the ability to think differently and I have been able to apply this to improving my constituency and parliamentary work; the strategy knowledge allows me to understand the needs and the operations knowledge allows me to address them.

I feel that physicians are trained to think differently than MBAs and that with my business education I am in a position to offer more value to my constituents.

Do you have any advice for a student currently in business school, either undergraduate or MBA?

I would encourage them pick something they enjoy, and immerse themselves; everyone performs better when they enjoy it. I would also advise them to use their educational experience to explore their country. A business degree, particularly an MBA, allows you work on projects outside of your geographical and cultural comfort zone. The more you do this, the better position you are in to understand our great country and to gain meaningful future employment.

Special to The Globe and Mail